The Challenge to Younger Men in the Church
As we continue to think about the admonition to Christian men, the word “Likewise” (Titus 2:3, 6) connects to the godly example we thought about in the previous post. Please note: The Bible calls younger Christian men to the same high expectation of character as the older men. However, our culture does not do this. Instead the culture says to young men, “Take your time to grow up. Have all the fun you want. There’s no need to get serious about life.” The postponement of adulthood is becoming the new normal. Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick write,
“Social scientists have noticed that more young adults are putting off the responsibilities of adulthood. Adultolescence is the term that best describes this postponement of adulthood. This phase is characterized by identity exploration, instability, focus on self, feeling in limbo, and a sense of limitless possibilities.
Others have called this the ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ because these kids just don’t want to grow up. The percentage of American children, or ‘kidults,’ in their mid-twenties living with their parents has nearly doubled since 1970. Some never leave.
One survey reports that only 16% of mothers and 19% of fathers say their children (ages eighteen to twenty-five) have reached adulthood. Even more alarming is that their kids don’t dispute it: only 16% consider themselves to be adults. Articles dealing with the complicated relationships between adults and their grown dependent children have appeared in many publications including Money, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. This trend is not unique to America. Time magazine points out that other nations are facing similar challenges. The British call them ‘kippers’—Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings. The Australians call them “boomerang kids”—you throw them out but they keep coming back. Nor has the church escaped this phenomenon.” (Newheiser & Fitzpatrick)
What is the solution to this growing problem of postponing adulthood? It is to return to the model of discipleship laid out for us in Scripture. Older men should be mature examples of Christian manhood so that they are equipped to train the younger men to be the same (Titus 2:6-8). As a young pastor, Titus was urged to not only admonish the older men of the church, but also to have the courage to challenge the younger men who were his peers in life. Like the younger women are to humble receive counsel and instruction from the older women, so the younger men are to receive training from the older men.
BE SENSIBLE IN ALL THINGS
“Sensible” is the same word we noticed in the call to older men. It means to be sober-minded and self-controlled. William MacDonald says this is “an appropriate word—since youth is the time of brimming zeal, restless energy, and burning drives.” Second Timothy 2:22 admonishes younger men, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” In all things, younger men need to live under the discipline of the gospel by guarding themselves from being led astray by their own temptations and the ways of the world. How are they to be sensible in all things?
- Be an example of good works. The younger men are to be an example, a pattern. This refers to the mark left by a blow, an impression, or the stamp made by a die. An example is a model to follow. “Show yourself,” the apostle admonished. Titus was a young man, part of this age group in the church. As such, he was to hold himself alongside the other younger men as a mature example. Contrary to the pattern in today’s society, youth should not viewed as a time to be wasted in idleness or frivolity. It’s the time to use abundant energy build a sound foundation for the future. It’s the time to establish godly habits and priorities that will determine the rest of one’s life.
- Be doctrinally-sound and serious-minded. Titus’ godly example needed to reinforce his teaching. In other words, he was called to faithfully teach the Word of God as he pursued becoming a godly example for others to follow. His teaching was described in two ways: sound and serious. He was called to be dignified in the manner in which he taught others the Scriptures. As a young pastor, Titus was called to conduct his ministry in a manner that reflects “the high moral tone and serious manner appropriate to his sacred task.”(Gaebelein). He was not called to fit into his culture, but to stand above it and speak into it.
- Be faithful in speech. As a young pastor, his speech was to be an example of what the conversation of other young men in the church was to be. The speech of younger men is to be sensible, biblical, and pure. This kind of health-giving speech is described in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” If this is his pattern he cannot be condemned. Why should the younger men of the church pursue this kind of example? Because the testimony of the gospel is at stake.
BE CAREFUL ABOUT YOUR TESTIMONY
The reason the younger men of the church need to be sensible in all things is so that the testimony of the gospel is not put to shame (Titus 2:8). Notice that the same motivation was given to the women of the church (Titus 2:5). Therefore, every believer should take care to guard their Christian testimony.
God’s plan for disciple-making in the church is for grace to create a ripple effect across the generations. The older men of the church are to reflect the kind of character that Paul described so that their example may lead the younger men toward the same sensible maturity. Both groups are to be actively involved in the ongoing pursuit of sound doctrine and mature Christian character. As this kind of cross-generational disciple-making becomes more and more present in our church, we will experience the kind of Christ-like growth that God intends for us.
[This post is adapted from a recent sermon Cornerstone Community Church. Search on the title, “A Pursuit of Christian Manhood” here.]